Tag Archives: Drew Angus

Roundup: Tyler Hicks’ Lyman, Connecticut Mag’s 40 Under 40, Farmers’ Market’s Lectures …

As the year ends, Westporters look back on a tough one. COVID is still hanging around. The stock market plummeted. Our nation is politically divided.

Compared to Ukraine though, we live on Easy Street.

Our new sister city of Lyman is entering its 10th month of hell. The Russians are gone after 5 months of occupation. But they left devastation behind.

Buildings lack roofs and walls. There is virtually no electricity or heat. Fire trucks and police cars were demolished. Debris is everywhere.

You can click here to read the latest devastating news, from yesterday’s New York Times. (This news just in: Earlier today, a Russian missile hit the police station. Only 2 patrol cars are left in the town.)

You can see some brutal images too — taken, coincidentally, by Westport native/Staples High School graduate/Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Tyler Hicks.

A Lyman firefighter battles a blaze with just a trickle of water, in bitter cold. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

On this final day of 2022, please help Westport’s drive to help Lyman.

Our goal is $250,000. As of yesterday — less than 2 weeks after we began — we’ve raised $219,200. Wouldn’t it be great to reach our target today?

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Lyman through Ukraine Aid International — the non-profit co-founded by Westporter Brian Mayer. Please click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here). 

(Hat tips: Elisabeth Keane and Sharon Fiarman)

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After Italian and Chinese food, what’s next?

Peruvian.

When blandly named but popular Westport Chinese Takeout closed in October, it left a void in Saugatuck.

That’s where — decades earlier — the original Arrow Restaurant began. (The name comes from the angle of the road, where Franklin Street meets Saugatuck Avenue.) When it outgrow that location, the Arrow moved around the corner to Charles Street.

Work has begun on Lomito. The windows are still papered over. But there are new steps, and a spiffy logo. Two signs promise: “Opening soon.”

(Photo/JD Dworkow)=======================================================

Connecticut Magazine is out with their annual “40 Under 40” list.

Among the 40 people under 40 years old who are “changing the game in Connecticut and beyond”: Westporters Drew Angus and Julia Marino.

The writeup on Angus — a 2007 Staples High School graduate — says:

Finding success as a musician is not easy, explains this Bridgeport-based and Westport-raised singer-songwriter. “In this business, behind all the accomplishments and successes are many more unsuccessful projects and ideas that just never quite worked out,” Angus says. “It takes a certain kind of drive and a sick love for things not working out to be successful in creative ventures like music.”

Fortunately for him and fans of music everywhere, Angus has that drive, as his easy-to-listen-to, melodic New Americana music propelled him to be a finalist on American Idol in 2016. He’s also shared the stage with Harry Styles and Nile Rogers on Saturday Night Live, as well as Pat Benatar, Ann Wilson of Heart, and Andrea Bocelli. He has also toured with Marc Broussard and last summer impressed his hometown music fans with a set at Sound on Sound festival in Bridgeport.

When asked what advice he has for aspiring songwriters, he urges artists to not over-revise their work. “Finish those songs and put them out,” he says. “There’s a point of diminishing returns when changing lyric, melody or mix on a song no longer makes it better but just different or actually worse. Sometimes version one is actually the magic take.”

Drew Angus

For Olympic silver medalist Marino, it reads:

Lots of notable folks can boast about throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for a Red Sox game at fabled Fenway Park, including slopestyle and Big Air snowboarder and Westport native Marino. But she also has bragging rights none of those others can touch. In 2016, Marino, then an 18-year-old World Cup newcomer, replaced an injured teammate to compete in the Polartec Big Air event held at Fenway Park … and won.

A hit at Fenway, she returned to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in 2017, and again for a Red Sox-Yankees game in August 2022. Eighteen was a good age for Marino, who that year also became the first woman to land a double in slopestyle competition, according to her U.S. Ski & Snowboard team bio, landing two in the same run, a cab double underflip and a double backflip. Marino is most famous, of course, for winning a silver medal in women’s slopestyle at the 2022 Beijing Olympics (slopestyle is snowboarding down a course filled with terrain-park features and obstacles like rails and jumps.)

Also a 2018 Olympian and a seven-time X Games medalist, Marino loves photography, making videos, and spending time outdoors with her family and dog.

Julia Marino, on the Olympic podium.

Click here for the full Connecticut Magazine “40 Under 40.”

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The Westport Farmers’ Market: It’s not just for fresh produce anymore.

Well, everyone knows that. But here’s more proof, if anyone needs it:

Through January, the Market will host a 4-part lecture series, Thursdays at 1 p.m. at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center on Sylvan Lane.

Each presentation is 20 minutes, followed by a Q-and-A.

  • January 5: “Yoga is (Not) a 4-Letter Word: Demystifying the Practice” (Abbey Chase, owner, Abbey Chase Yoga)
  • January 12: “Muscle Activation, Neurological Inhibition, and Chronic Pain” (Dr. Andrew Crape)
  • January 19: “The Lymph” (Rev. Dr. Mark L. Heilshorn owner, Dharma Massage Therapy)
  • January 26: “Gut Healing and Anti-inflammatory Bonebroth Detox Soup” (Christine Beal Dunst, CEO and co-founder, Embody Wellness Company).

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This photo is a bit of a mystery.

Matt Murray noticed all these shoes lined up at Old Mill Beach.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

There was no one nearby. No one swimming.

Who owns them? Why are they there?

Maybe it’s part of SyFy’s annual “Twilight Zone” marathon. The annual event — an homage to the show and its creator, former Westporter Rod Serling — began at 5 a.m. today. It runs through 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

Click here for the full schedule.  (In case you’re wondering: “A Stop at Willoughby” — the classic Westport-themed episode — airs Monday, at 5 p.m.)

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Congratulations to Dr. Cindy Dunbar. The 1976 Staples High School graduate  was recently inducted into the National Academy of Medicine.

A Harvard graduate who specializes in hematology, she’s had an amazing career. Click here for an in-depth interview. (She begins with her youth in Westport — and her interest in music and theater. It continues to this day.)

Click here for a more scientifically oriented piece. (Hat tip: Ed Stalling)

Dr. Cindy Dunbar

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It wouldn’t be a holiday without a photo of Jolantha.

Weston’s favorite pig welcomes the new year in (as always) style:

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” image combines a favorite subject (the beach) with a manmade-but-natural offering.

As the holidays wind down … enjoy!

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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And finally … who needs Guy Lombardo (or Dan Fogelberg), when we’ve got Mariah Carey?!

 (The year is not yet over! You’ve still got a few hours to support “06880” — and, because we’re a non-profit, take a tax write-off. Please click here. Thank you!)

 

Drew Angus’ Wrecking Ball

This old house is quiet now
But I still hear the sounds
The Stones on the stereo
Mets on the radio
Mom screaming turn it down
Dust on the shelves
Dents in the rug where my bed once rested
Tomorrow the Wrecking Ball tears it down.

The words may be unfamiliar. But the feelings resonate with anyone whose childhood home was chopped down.

Just like the one on Colony Road, where Drew Angus grew up.

I still see my family and me
Framed on the walls
My brother’s first steps
Big wheel wrecks
And the fire pit in the fall
You might see some shutters and shingles 
But to me it’s something sacred
Tomorrow the Wrecking Ball tears it down.

Drew’s parents moved there in 1994, when he was 4 years old. Four houses shared one driveway.

Drew Angus’ Colony Road home.

“It was such a fun place to grow up,” he says. “We rode our bikes to school. There was a huge ravine in the back. We played manhunt, hide-and-seek and paintball. It was the best trick-or-treating spot in town, before Gault.”

Drew graduated from Staples High School in 2007. He’s now a singer/songwriter, with a great following. This summer, he’ll join the Lumineers and Stevie Nicks at Bridgeport’s Sound on Sound Festival.

Drew Angus

He sings about what he knows. One of those is that his childhood home is now just a memory.

Oh tomorrow the Wrecking Ball tears it 
Down to the dirt in a cloud of dust
22 years and what’s left of us
Surrenders to the Wrecking Ball
Oh, surrenders to the Wrecking Ball.

Drew had so much to write about. He and co-writer Neil Herman captured some of his feelings in the lyrics above and below. But he remembers so much more: The scratches on the floor from a rowdy sleepover. The spot where orange soda spilled during a birthday party. His bedroom wall, painted like a western movie scene.

Not all the memories are great, of course. But right now, they’re all he has.

That, and his song.

If this old house could speak somehow
What would it say?
Thanks for the memories
But just like a melody
It’s my time to fade away
Take one last look
Carve your name in the door
And kick out the kitchen windows
‘Cause tomorrow the Wrecking Ball tears it down.

“Wrecking Ball” cover.

The backhoe creaked up the driveway. Drew asked if he could hop in. The operator showed him which lever to push. Within seconds, the garage came tumbling down.

Oh tomorrow the Wrecking Ball tears it
Down to the dirt in a cloud of dust
22 years and what’s left of us
Surrenders to the Wrecking Ball
Oh Surrenders, surrenders
Surrenders, surrenders
Surrenders to the Wrecking Ball.

The lyrics, he says, are “some of the truest to my heart of any song I’ve written.”

It’s tough to put himself out there like that. And countless other people are losing their homes for other reasons, like foreclosures and bombs.

But, Drew says, “this is my story.”

And — at least in “06880,” and places like this — it’s many of his fans’ stories too.

This old house is quiet now 
But I still hear the sounds…

(Click here to stream Drew Angus’ “Wrecking Ball” on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and other platforms.)

Roundup: Cannabis, Weston Fine Arts Festival, Drew Angus …

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Several years ago — after the state of Connecticut legalized medical marijuana — the Planning & Zoning Commission debated locations for dispensaries in town.

Several meetings drew SRO crowds. They lasted past midnight. After much contentious discussion, a dispensary has operated — quietly — since 2019.

Now, the state has legalized recreational cannabis. The local process begins again. As with medical marijuana, municipalities have the option to allow or disallow dispensaries.

This Thursday (6 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a work session on the impact on Westport. Besides whether or not to allow recreational sales, the P&Z may discuss a related issue: What — if anything — to do about residents who want to grow cannabis, for commercial use.

This is a work session only. Public hearings will be held at a later date. Click here for tonight’s full agenda.

Tonight’s meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, Optimum channel 79, and Frontier channel 6020.

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What a musical weekend!

“06880” has already covered the Darlene Love and Broadway on the Beach shows.

Last night, the Levitt Pavilion was again packed. Broadway star/cabaret singer Frank Mastrone and Friends wowed the crowd with a selection of classics, pop and show tunes.

Frank Mastrone (right) and part of his band. He was joined onstage by 2 daughters, and Broadway singers he’s starred with. (Photo/JC Martin)

This week’s Levitt lineup includes the Connecticut Ballet (Tuesday), Divinity Roxx (children’s series, Wednesday), Feufollet (Cajun, honkytonk and string band, Thursday), the Drew Angus Band (Staples High School Class of 2007 singer/songwriter, Friday), Billy & the Showmen (R&B, soul, funk; Saturday) and Leonardo Suarez Paz & Cuartetango (tango, Saturday).

Click here for times and (free!) ticket information.

The Levitt Pavilion crowd for Frank Mastrone. (Photo/JC Martin)

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This weekend’s first-ever Weston Fine Arts Festival was a smash. The weather was great; plenty of artists exhibited, and Weston’s own José Feliciano gave his first public concert since COVID struck.

A small sampling of the large number of artworks. (Photo/JC Martin)

Plans are already underway for next year’s event.

Among the artists (below): Westporter Gabrielle Ferrara.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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Drew Angus’ video of “Made to Love You” — one of the talented Staples High School Class of 2007 singer/songwriter’s recent releases — has already racked up more than 60,000 views.

Featuring a pair of mesmerizing dancers, it’s one of the best of the “official music video” genre.

It’s also got another important Westport connection. Director of photography Todd Rawiszer is a fellow Staples alum. He and Drew met in high school.

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Elliott Siff died peacefully earlier this month, at his Westport home. He was 90 years old.

Elliott grew up in Whitestone Queens. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from  Cornell University Engineering School, where he was elected to the honorary societies Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma.

He served on the Advisory Council of the Cornell Engineering School, on which he was the first undergraduate faculty member. He was founder, chairman, chief executive and chief financial officer of Alcide Corporation. Elliott also was chairman and president of Belmar Corporation, a real estate holding company.

In 1962 he founded and ran VI Products, Inc., an aerospace company involved in the development and manufacture of gyroscopes and stabilization systems.  His gyroscope, the smallest in the world, was used in the Apollo spacecraft landing on the moon, and in Israeli torpedoes during the 6-Day War.

In 1975 Elliott created the Ladder Works, which developed, manufactured and distributed his invention: the stowaway step stool. He also founded Meditec Systems, a company based on an ambulatory intravenous system he invented.

He held 22 patents on electromechanical devices, gyroscopes, housewares, medical devices, and chemical and pharmaceutical products. His publications in the aerospace field include a reference textbook, An Engineering Approach to Gyroscopic Instruments.

His obituary calls him an “entrepreneur, inventor, author, poet, champion tennis player, Renaissance man,” who was “elegant, highly intelligent, with a wonderful sense of humor, strong, gentle, and totally devoted to his family.”

He is survived by his wife Marlene; sons, Brad (Meryl) and Brian (Michelle), and grandsons Jordan, Jackson, and Adam. He was predeceased by a grandson, Noah.

Contributions in Elliott’s name can be made to Cornell Engineering.

Elliott Siff

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Tom Lowrie spotted this intriguing tree at Baron’s South. We usually feature animals — or at least flowers — in “Westport … Naturally.” But this is one more wonderful bit of nature.

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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And finally … on this day in 1999, Lou Bega released “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of …).”

Bar mitzvahs and weddings have never been the same.

Roundup: Fireworks, Mill Pond Jumping, River Cleanup …

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Jennifer Rago McCarthy grew up with Westport traditions. Like the Yankee Doodle Fair. And the 4th of July fireworks.

In 2020, COVID knocked out the June fair. To be safe, the Westport Woman’s Club moved this year’s event to September.

For the second straight summer, the fireworks wee canceled.

Which got Jennifer — a 1985 Staples High School graduate — thinking: Why not have the fireworks on Labor Day weekend?

Why not indeed?!

Jennifer asked me to post her idea. If enough people are interested, it may be worth pursuing.

So, “06880” readers: What do you think? If you’re down with fireworks on Labor Day weekend, click “Comments” below.

And if you think that’s a bad idea, click “Comments” too — and tell us why.

Labor Day, 2021?(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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“The show must go on” is a time-honored tradition. On Friday night, Drew Angus honored it well.

The Staples High School graduate, recording artist and all-around good guy was booked for the Levitt Pavilion. Right before showtime, a hard rain fell.

But Drew — standing behind his band’s covered instruments — gave a fantastic performance.

Most of the crowd was far in back, under the overhang. A few hardy folks sat on the grass. But it didn’t take long for many to get up and dance. It was an amazing scene. (It didn’t hurt that one of his numbers was “Singin’ in the Rain.”)

Carleigh Welsh announced that Drew will be booked for another performance this summer. Hopefully he knows “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” (Hat tip: Laura Schwartz)

Drew Angus, singing in the rain. (Photo/Laura Schwartz)

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For decades, kids jumped off the Sherwood Mill Pond bridge.

When the water got grotty, they stopped.

The pond is back in great shape. Several years ago, the jumpers returned.

Last summer, some of them were loud and rude. They ruined it for everyone. Residents complained. Parks & Rec put up a “Danger/No Jumping or Diving” sign, complete with little red-slash pictographs.

Yesterday, Ann Becker Moore, Pam Washburn and Karen Como spotted a new sign. It says simply: “Jump.”

(Photo/Karen Como)

WTF?!

If anyone knows what’s going on, click “Comments” below.

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This was 90 Morningside Drive South, when it was on the market.

It was bought last July for $2.64 million, by Mattera Construction. Here’s how it looked yesterday:

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Every other Saturday morning, Longshore Sailing School hosts a Saugatuck River cleanup.

Despite yesterday’s weather, 40 single and double kayaks headed out. Each came bag with incredible amounts of trash.

Paul Danielewicz and Mark Jaffe collected the most. They don’t win anything. But everyone who loves the Saugatuck River is grateful.

The next cleanup is July 17 (9:30 to 11 a.m.). Anyone interested should meet at Longshore Sailing School, behind the pool.

Paul Danielewicz and Mark Jaffe.

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Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Eastern Conference finals. They advance to the championship for the first time since 1974 (when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the starting center).

The Westport connection? The Bucks are co-owned by Westport hedge fund manager Marc Lasry. PS: They were named the Bucks long before the billionaire bought them. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

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Conversion of the former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters in New Haven — the concrete box on the left as you head north, next to Ikea and just before the I-91 merge — into what may be the most energy-efficient hotel in the country has “Westport” all over it.

Hotel Marcel’s developer and architect is Westport-based Bruce Becker. He’s building it to meet net-zero energy standards. It will generate as much energy as it uses. All electricity is produced on site, and it’s the first passive house-certified hotel in the US. 

Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the project’s site/civil engineer.

It’s a great project. To learn more, click on the video below. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)

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The weather hasn’t been great this 4th of July weekend. But Jolantha of Kellogg Hill proves you can put lipstick on this pig.

Or at least decorate her for the holiday.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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“Naturally … Westport” ventures today to Bermuda Road, on Saugatuck Shores:

(Photo/Diane Yormark)

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And finally … happy birthday, America. We’ve made it through 245 years. Here’s to the next 245!

Roundup: Yanks’ Bat Girl, Playhouse, Ireland …

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Gwen Goldman McLoughlin’s star turn as New York Yankees’ bat girl — 60 years after the team rejected the 10-year-old’s request — has gotten plenty of national media attention. “06880” covered the inspiring story on Sunday.

One of the best pieces was in yesterday’s New York Times. Click here to read. Then click below for a tweet that will have you smiling all day.

Whether you love the Yanks or hate them, you gotta admit: This is pure class.

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Ninety years to the day after it first opened, the Westport Country Playhouse celebrated a new season last night.

The audience was COVID-limited in size. They enjoyed a recorded — not live — presentation of “Tiny House,” a clever comedy.

But — after last year’s remote-only season, and some decisions about how to present this year’s shows — there was a palpable sense of joy among last night’s theater-goers.

The Playhouse has survived one of the toughest times in its 9-decade history. They’ve got a full schedule of events this year (most remote, a few cabarets and such in person).

The doors were open again last night, exactly 90 years after the former tannery in an apple orchard began its run as one of America’s premier summer theaters.

Here’s wishing 90 more great years, to one of Westport’s greatest jewels!

Welcome back! (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Optimum will “dramatically reduce” upload speeds for new customers on July 12, according to published reports.

The Verge says that the cable company — owned by Altice — will slice some plans from 35 Mbps to 5 Mbps.

The change affects new customers serviced by Optimum’s non-fiber network. It will impact current subscribers only if they upgrade, downgrade or otherwise change their service. Download speeds should remain the same,

The change, Altice told The Verge, is to bring the plan  “in line with other ISPs and aligned with the industry.” (Click here for the Verge story; click here for a longer story from Ars Technica. Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)

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Concerts at the Levitt Pavilion is an Angus family tradition since they moved here in 1993. He grew up watching the Hall Family Band Night (and was part of Music for Children for a long time).

Some of Drew Angus’ most memorable Westport nights were with legends Nile Rodgers and Chic, John Fogerty, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and most recently Bruce Hornsby. 

He remembers too when his grandmother brought panties to throw on stage for Tom Jones.

He’s seen great regional acts like Philly’s Low Cut Connie and Brooklyn’s Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. He enjoyed some of the country’s best blues and rock acts at Blues Views & BBQ. One of his all-time favorites was a Latin zydeco band from California, Incendio. 

Drew long dreamed of playing on stage. He fulfilled that dream in 2018. It’s a stage I dreamt of playing as a kid and did for the first time in 2018

This Friday (July 2, 7:30 p.m.), Drew Angus is back. He’s joined by a 7-piece band, including Westport’s Russ Crain. They were fellow Class of 2007 Staples graduates.

They’ll play songs from Drew’s upcoming record, and familiar covers. It will be a special night for one of the Levitt’s favorite musicians — on both sides of the stage. (Click here for tickets, and more information.)

Drew Angus rocks.

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Work begins soon on the transformation of the old Barnes & Noble into a new grocery outlet — rumored to be Amazon Go. A construction trailer has moved into the parking lot.

Meanwhile, around the corner, work continues on the renovation of Greens Farms Congregational Church.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Meanwhile, back near the former Barnes & Noble, there is no sign of action whatsoever at the abandoned Mobil Self-Serve. It closed nearly 3 years ago, and the site looks sorrier by the day.

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Last month’s Westport Fine Arts Festival was a cold washout.

Weston hopes for a better forecast for their own Fine Arts Festival. It’s July 17 and 18, on School Road.

The juried event includes over 100 artists working in painting, sculpture, jewelry, ceremics, wood and fine crafts, plus children’s activities, art demonstrations, musical guests and food trucks. Weston’s own Jose Feliciano performs live on Saturday.

Admission is free.

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Speaking of art: Sorelle Gallery’s next show is “Quiet Moments.” Works by contemporary coastal realist painter Daniel Pollera, and abstract artist Kelly Rossetti, are on display from July 10 through August 1.

A reception is set for July 10 (3 to 5 p.m.), in the Church Lane space. For more information, click here.

Works by Daniel Pollera and Kelly Rossetti.

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Yesterday’s “06880: The Podcast” upload featured Helen McAlinden. The CEO of Homes with Hope discussed homelessness and food insecurity in Fairfield County, with her well-known passion and trademark Irish brogue.

As it happens, she’s spending this week visiting relatives back home. She took time to send this photo of Westport — Westport, Ireland, that is.

Sure, and it brightens your day.

(Photo/Helen McAlinden)

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Speaking as we were of the water: Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is from this side of the pond. I have no idea if there are horseshoe crabs in Ireland.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … speaking of Westport, Ireland: Matt Molloy of the Chieftains owns a pub and music venue there. It’s on a road whose name we share here in Connecticut: Bridge Street.

Pics Of The Day #1522

One person said, “I feel like I’m in Key West.”

Another likened it to Burlington, Vermont. A third said “Italy.”

But all were on Church Lane tonight.

Perfect temperatures and a light breeze brought a big crowd to the blocked-off street.

Restaurants were packed. Music played. Franny’s Farmacy celebrated its 1-year anniversary. Kids played cornhole by Savannah Bee.

It felt like summer in Westport — just better, more appreciated, and more welcoming than ever.

Young kids posed as Staples High School graduate and recording artist Drew Angus played by Spotted Horse … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… and then danced in the street (Photo/Jordan Schur)

 

Franny’s Farmacy family and friends gathered for the hemp wellness store’s 1 year anniversary celebration. It continues tomorrow, with events from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Drew Angus’ Snow Globe Christmas

As a 5-year-old in 1994, Drew Angus first heard Harry Connick Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas.”

The iconic album — and the longstanding tradition of family Christmas Eve parties in the Anguses’ Westport home — were important parts of his childhood.

Christmas is his favorite season. Christmas songs play a huge role. And — now that Angus is a professional musician — timeless music like Connick’s inspires him artistically.

For years, the 2007 Staples High School graduate wanted to provide others with the joy he felt. Now — with the release of “A Snow Globe Christmas” — he’s done exactly that.

A busy touring schedule and other commitments kept him out of the studio in past summers. That’s when holiday albums are recorded. Just as Santa’s elves work all year round, it takes months of recording, art, marketing, distribution and promotion to produce something that magically appears right now.

But this August — when the pandemic wiped out Angus’ gigs — he had the perfect opportunity to bring some cheer, via holiday tunes.

Work began in August. He and Black Rock Sound producer Mikhail Pivovarov picked songs, and started arranging.

“With Christmas music, you don’t reinvent the wheel,” Angus says. “You take songs that everyone knows, and make them your own.”

His 5-track EP includes chestnuts like “The Christmas Song” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with Elton John’s rocking “Step Into Christmas.”

Drew Angus

It was also important to Angus that he include new music. So — drawing on his love of Connick, Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole — he wrote 2 original tracks.

One — “Snow Globe” — was composed with his friend Nicholas Wells, via Zoom. It’s a hopeful reminder to take a step back, and find some calm amid the holiday season mayhem.

“The season will look a little different this year,” Angus says. “Thanksgiving may be more quiet. The Christmas Eve party won’t be filled with the usual gathering of families.”

Still, he notes, “the cheer will never be lost. I hope ‘A Snow Globe Christmas’ brings families a little joy this holiday season — and for many years to come.”

Just as Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby — and of course Harry Connick Jr. — have done for  years, for Drew Angus.

(Click here to hear “A Snow Globe Christmas” on your favorite platform.)

Roundup: Governor Lamont, Marc Lasry Speak; Musicians Play; Helicopter Flies; More


Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening begins next Wednesday (June 17). It’s a big day for Governor Ned Lamont. And at 9 a.m., he shares it with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

He’s the special guest and speaker for their virtual “Morning Network” meeting. The event is free — and open to all.

Lamont will give an update on the pandemic, discuss the next phase in reopening, offer his views on the future, and answer questions. They may be submitted ahead of time by email, or through the chat function during the event.

Pre-registration is required; click here.

Governor Ned Lamont


Also virtual — and also featuring big names — is the Westport Library’s next Trefz Newsmakers series.

CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues interviews billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.

They’ll talk about Lasry’s career, how he gives back, his advice for entrepreneurs, and COVID-19’s effect on business and the sports world.

To register, click here.


Driving around Westport and Weston, Aarti Khosla has been touched by the many yard signs and balloons congratulating high school and middle school graduates. She’s been impressed by the banners on Main Street, not far from Le Rouge — her “aartisan” chocolate shop.

But as she thought about all that’s going on America today, she was inspired to act on the words that she fervently believes in: “Spread love.” And what better place to spread love than nearby Bridgeport?

She called the superintendent of schools, and offered to celebrate their graduates with “Give a Little Love” hearts. Here’s her message to “06880” readers:

“Next week, 1115 Bridgeport students will graduate from high school. This is an enormous accomplishment. We recognize the obstacles they overcame to achieve success.

“Le Rouge asks for your support in celebrating these graduates. We will make chocolate hearts to celebrate every Bridgeport high school senior. If each Westport graduating senior — or a relative or friend, or perfect stranger — agrees to celebrate 3 Bridgeport students with a $25 sponsorship, we can give our love to the entire community via chocolate hearts.

“We have until next Monday to make this a reality. Click here to help.”

Aarti Khosla’s wonderful chocolates

 


Some youngsters returned to their elementary schools for the first time since March today. It was also their last time at “their” school.

“Moving up” car parades were held for 5th graders around town. This was the scene captured by Kings Highway Elementary School parent Tricia Lau-Lewis.

All 5 kids went to KHS. The youngest will be in 5th grade there next year.

Meanwhile, after the Saugatuck El parade, Carolyn Doan’s family headed to Sunny Daes. They met some Greens Farms Elementary folks there (below).

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


MoCA Westport shut down in mid-March. But their beautiful Steinway grand piano did not sit idle.

As part of their pandemic programming, they invited accomplished local pianists to perform. They filmed them, and shared the virtual concerts free on their YouTube page.

Pianists are invited to play music of their choice. Some — like Chris Coogan — are inspired by MoCA’s current Helmut Lang exhibition. He wrote and performed an original piece.

This week’s performance features two Staples students. Patrick Looby and Lucas Lieberman are rising seniors. They played together in November, at Carnegie Hall.

For MoCA they play Aram Khachaturian’s  lively waltz “Masquerade.” Enjoy!


More music news! Drew Angus — the 2007 Staples High School grad profiled recently on “06880” as an example of a gig worker navigating his way through the coronavirus crisis — performs via Zoom this Friday (June 12, 12 noon).

It’s a Westport Senior Center production — but it’s open to everyone who wants to hear the work of this talented young singer/songwriter.

Click here for the Zoom link (meeting ID: 883 1489 6846; password: 2DHJSV). It’s also available on Facebook (click here, or search for Toquet Hall).


Here’s a sight you don’t see every day: Yesterday, a helicopter apparently headed for a landing at Old Mill Beach or Sherwood Island State Park.

If you know the back story, click “Comment” below.


And finally … this is a poignant song at any time. Particularly at graduation. And really particularly this year.

Here’s to the Class of 2020. You haven’t seen each other for a while. But you’ve come a long way from where you began. I hope you see each other for a long time, soon.

COVID Roundup: Farmer’s Market; Rive Bistro; Drew Angus; C-130 Flyover; More


Connecticut restaurants are allowed to reopen a week from today — Wednesday, May 20 — with outdoor dining only.

Rive Bistro is raring to go.

Owner Eric Sierra already had a covered patio, off Riverside Avenue on the bank of the Saugatuck River. Now he’s extended it, making sure tables are 6 feet apart. They’ll serve a full lunch and dinner menu.

During the pandemic, Rive Bistro has been open weekends for curbside pickup only. Starting today, they’ll offer curbside dinners every day, from 4 to 8 p.m. When outdoor dining begins next week, curbside takeout will continue to be available too.


Yesterday at 10 a.m., town officials began handing out face masks at Bedford Middle School.

It was a great idea. It took Eve Potts an hour to get from Long Lots to Bedford — but she reports that the distribution was well organized. And, she says, “we now have a nice supply of masks.” Here was part of the line, spilling out to North Avenue, when distribution began.

(Photo/Eve Potts)


Two weeks ago on “06880,” Drew Angus shared his life as a gig worker in a pandemic. The 2007 Staples High School graduate is a musician. Accessing  funds through the CARES Act and PPP was a different tune than for salary and wage workers.

Today he brings us up to date on his efforts. Drew says: “My stimulus check finally came through. So did my SBA loan advance of $1,000, which is technically a grant. No word yet on the loan itself. They are processing applications as quickly as possible. The system is starting to work — slowly.

“On Friday the Department of Labor finally put the PUA application for gig worker unemployment up on their site.”

Meanwhile, Drew continues to work on his music. Here’s his latest project. It’s definitely worth checking out — and forwarding far and wide.


I’m not sure why officials have decided that a good way to honor medical workers is to spend tons of money of military flyovers — rather than, say, PPE — but another one takes place tomorrow (Thursday, May 14).

The Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing will fly C-130s over a Connecticut hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Norwalk Hospital is on the flight path, at approximately 11:37 a.m.

Also on the list: Greenwich Hospital (11:34), Silver Hill (11:39), Bridgeport Hospital (11:43) and Yale New Haven (11:48).


Every year, MoCA Westport sponsors a student art exhibit. It’s always a remarkable show — and wonderful reminder that our arts future is alive and well.

The museum is closed indefinitely. But this year’s show is online — andn as inspiring as ever. Over 60 students from throughout the region submitted paintings, photographs, collages and ceramics. Many address these uncertain times.

Among the artists represented: Staples High School’s Alexandra Lam, Anne Machata and Caroline Rourke, and Greens Farms Academy’s Ryan Boyle and Lulu Wu.

Click here for the full gallery.

“Quarantined All Year Round” (Emma Costa Norwalk High School), part of the MOCA High School Student Art Exhibition.


Several Staples High School sports teams have provided meals to front line personnel. The latest is the boys hockey squad.

Parents and players partnered with Staples culinary instructor Alison Milwe Grace — who also owns AMG Catering — to have 50 meals delivered to Norwalk Hospital workers.

Each player sent a personal note; the team added a bigger one, thanking the healthcare workers for all they’re doing.

PS: Several players eat gluten-free diets, so they made sure half the meals they donated were gluten-free too.

PPS: Following up on a previous “06880” story: In 11 days, Staples’ girls track team raised over $7,000 (and ran over 190 miles) for the Stamford Hospital. The boys swim team provided sandwiches for Norwalk Hospital too. And girls golf has been involved with Homes With Hope.


Buried deep in Westport’s RTM Rules of Procedure is this: the “first right-hand seat of the left-hand section as you face the Moderator” should be left empty. It’s a memorial to Maclear Jacoby, one of the original members, and to all deceased RTM members.

Now comes word that Maclear Jacob Jr. died last month, after contracting the coronavirus. He was 93, and had quite a life. After growing up in Westport he spent 65 years at Landon — the elite, all-boys prep school in Bethesda, Maryland.

He served in the Navy in World War II, graduated from Trinity College, joined the Air Force and fought for a year in Korea, and became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. But, the Washington Post says:

In 1955 Jacoby turned his attention to educating children…. 

During his 65-year career — the longest in Landon’s history — Jacoby served many roles. In addition to math teacher, he was head of Landon’s middle school. As varsity tennis coach, he led the squad to 42 Interstate Athletic Conference titles and produced more than 20 individual championships and team titles. 

Even after he retired, Jacoby stayed close to campus, attending nearly every tennis match and keeping stats at football and basketball games.

(Hat tip: Charlie and Sandie Cole)


And finally … yesterday marked 2 months from the day Westport schools closed. Suddenly, things got real.

We had no idea how we would adapt. Could we last a couple of weeks at home? A month without a haircut or styling? How about 2 months of no sports or concerts?

Well, we’ve done it. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps that’s just the light of a big freight train coming at us.

Either way, we know we’ve been able to do things we hadn’t thought possible. It hasn’t been easy. But now we can all say — like Michael in “A Chorus Line” — “I can do that!”

Drew Angus: A Gig Worker In The Pandemic

The coronavirus has shattered our lives. Millions of Americans have lost steady jobs. Federal and state governments are scrambling to help.

Aid is less certain for the millions more who relied on gig work. Uber drivers, handymen, artists– all have been caught in an economic limbo almost as scary as the disease itself.

Drew Angus is one of those gig workers. The 2007 Staples High School graduate is a musician whose performing, recording and teaching offered him steady, if sometimes unpredictable, sources of income.

All of that changed, in an instant. Drew writes:

It’s week 6  in quarantine for most people in Connecticut. For me, quarantine started earlier.  I received an email on March 1 from my largest client of: “All live music is cancelled through May 30. Sorry!”

Okay, I thought. We’ll work this out; just a bump in the road. Maybe I’ll move to Nashville, and see what it’s like down there.

A tornado struck the city the next morning. You can’t make this stuff up.

Drew Angus

The other day, I received another email from the same client. All live music is now canceled through August. It doesn’t come as a surprise this time. But it still stings.

I’m a full time musician. We exist. Most of us are not famous. Many support families.  We’re non-traditional, or gig, workers.

Wikipedia says gig workers are “independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, and temporary workers.” We provide contracted services for a wide variety of clients, short and long term.

We’re musicians, graphic designers, industrial designers, doctors nurses and many more. A recent McKinsey study found that 25 to 30% of the US workforce falls into this category.

The way we’re taxed and paid is generally different from traditional W-2 workers with long-term employee-employer relationships.

One key difference: We don’t pay into unemployment. It’s not an option for us. (We do pay a self-employment tax of 15.3%, based on our gross income after business expenses. That goes to Social Security (12.4%) and Medicare (2.9%).

Drew Angus rocks.

The CARES Act came as a huge relief. For the first time, gig workers had access to unemployment, plus an additional $600 per week. That brought weekly relief into the $800 to $1000  a week range.

The bill offers self-employed individuals a $10,000 forgivable advance on an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan that does not need to be paid back, even if the borrower does not qualify for an SBA loan.

I applied. Nothing. Not even a denial.

Additionally, the bill offers self-employed individuals a Payroll Protection Program loan through lenders like Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

As a sole proprietor I am essentially an employee of my own business. That qualifies me, so I tried to apply through Bank of America.

However, BOA does not accept applications from self-employed individuals without a business checking account opened prior to February 15, 2020. Most self-employed workers I know do not have a business checking account. Neither do I.

I heard that Fairfield County Bank was processing loans much more easily. However, there has been conflicting information about the effect these loans will have on unemployment funds for the self-employed. Out of fear, I did not apply.

Drew Angus in Staples High School, with fellow musicians Nick Yost and Josh King.

Early on in quarantine, I was on a Fidelity Equity webinar for entertainment industry professionals. They walked us through the entire loan process, and told us to set up a meeting if we wanted to learn more and apply for the loans.

I did. They said that based on my numbers, I could get a 100% forgivable PPP loan for $300,000, and a $10,000 advance on the EIDL disaster loan — but I had to pay $2,500 up front so they could set up the paperwork for me. 

To get these numbers, the Fidelity guy had me add up all of my own adjusted gross income and payroll, which he said should include 1099 contract labor.

He misled me. 1099 labor does not qualify for PPP, and there are strict measures in place for forgiving both loans, as specified in the CARES Act. He was shooting for the stars.

Last year I paid 44 musician contractors, and filed 1099s for 23 of those I paid over $500. Some of my guys rely on me for a large chunk of their income. My original thought was to get the PPP and/or EIDL to help them out first.

Which brings me to unemployment. It’s a total nightmare.

On March 27 I filed my Connecticut Department of Labor claim online. First I consulted its website. There were questions like “How many employers have you worked for in the last 18 months?” and “Name of Most Recent Employer (As Per Pay Stub)” and “Please provide the gross wages you earned during the week of XX through XX.”

That’s not the way the music business operates.

The department definitely works well for some people. Their website says they’ve processed 250,000 of the 370,000 claim applications recently received, and provided over $100 million in benefits.

On April 15, after weeks of reading daily COVID update emails from Senator Murphy and Congressman Himes, yet seeing zero information regarding self- employed unnemployment   funds, I called Himes’ office.

A staffer named Joseph called me 2 hours later. He that Connecticut was not responsible for unemployment funds for self-employed folks. We have to wait until the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system from the federal government is up and running on April 30 to file a claim.

On April 16  I got a letter from the Department of Labor. They have no wage records on file for the 2019 pay period, and need more information. I tried calling the number on the form. No one answered.

I did receive an email from the DOL. It said I was approved for the “Temporary Layoff/Temporary Shutdown Program,” and did not need to do anything else at that time. I don’t need to file a weekly form; money would apparently just show up. I never saw the money for that week.

On April 24 I got another DOL letter. They found my wages information for Q4 2018 through Q3 2019: a whopping $41.79. They were royalty checks from an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 2017 (with fellow Westporter Nile Rogers).

Oh, yeah: I was denied benefits, for “insufficient wage credits.”

All l can do is wait and see. Meanwhile, rent is still due on May 1.

Oh, and that $1,200 stimulus check?

I’m still waiting.